Day 200: Rag Doll

Song: “Rag Doll” by the 4 Seasons
Reached #1: July 18, 1964 (their fourth, 2 weeks)

The “Sound” of ‘60s Rock

If you’ve ever driven downtown in a major city, you’ve seen the army of “helpful” people who clean windshields for spare change – whether you want them to or now.

Turns out that’s not a new phenomenon.  Songwriter Bob Gaudio wrote this for the 4 Seasons after a young girl washed his windshield at a traffic signal – in 1964.

The success of the 4 Seasons in the face of Beatlemania gives a bit of a window into how the business was changing.  The Beatles had just had their fourth #1 hit a few weeks before “Rag Doll” made the top of the charts.  The Beatles scored four #1s in 4 months.  It took the 4 Seasons two years to get their fourth.  The Beatles went on to rack up 16 more #1s.  The 4 Seasons had one more – 12 years after “Rag Doll”.

One thing the 4 Seasons have had over the years is a kind of consistency.  There haven’t been multiple touring versions of the group, or disputes over the name.  That’s because Gaudio and Frankie Valli were business-savvy enough to set up a corporation to own the 4 Seasons name from day one.  The 4 Seasons are, for all major purposes, Gaudio behind the scenes, Valli on lead vocals, and studio/touring musicians.

The 4 Seasons did take the unusual step of allowing their lead singer to go off on his own – Valli maintained a solo career through most of the 4 Seasons’ run – without really letting him go far.  For the bulk of his career, Valli’s solo hits were written and produced by the same people that were doing the 4 Seasons’ group hits, and most of the same musicians played on them as well.  This basically allowed Valli to do some songs that might not have fit under the 4 Seasons’ umbrella – but his only solo #1 was the soundtrack single, “Grease”.

If you’re a 4 Seasons fan, the good news is that we can be fairly certain they’ll live forever – after a fashion – with the huge success of Jersey Boys.  The musical based on the 4 Seasons has been running for 7 years around the world, and is likely to become one of those musicals that high schools stage for a long, long time…

Tomorrow, we cross the Sound for the first #1 for Long Island’s favorite son.

Other songs that reached #1 on July 18:
1960 –
“I’m Sorry” by Brenda Lee (her first, 3 weeks)


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